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Thinking about cooking a plant-based Christmas dinner this year? Or catering for someone who’s vegan? Journalist, author and vegan activist Selene Nelson shares her tips for cooking up a fantastic vegan feast at home.
Apart from foregoing the roast turkey, throwing a vegan Christmas really isn’t that different to a traditional one! In reality, all you have to do is make a couple of clever tweaks to enjoy an equally delicious festive meal. It’s not about denying yourself, but rather trying to eat in a kinder, more sustainable way.
Here, I share some of my favourite hacks for throwing a vegan Christmas, from quick-fix heroes to simple swaps.
1. Save time with simple swaps
Rather than cooking a host of separate vegan dishes, try swapping out animal-based products for plant-based ones. That way, everyone can dig into the same dish! For example, it’s just as easy to make crispy roast potatoes with rapeseed oil as with butter or goose fat – try these crispy paper potaotes for proof. And you can make a fantastic vegan stuffing using breadcrumbs, onions, nuts and herbs. In fact, a lot of Christmas essentials are vegan, without people realising!
The same goes for dessert. While many Christmas treats contain butter, eggs and suet, that doesn’t mean you have to skip the sweet course altogether. Most can be ‘veganised’ –often, all you need to do is swap dairy butter for a plant-based option, or use oat or soy cream instead of dairy cream. You can even make your own vegan egg (for baking) from aquafaba, which is the liquid you get in a can of chick peas. The protein in the liquid works as a binder in baking, in the same way eggs do – try using it in this layered pavlova with coconut cream. Being vegan doesn’t mean giving up the desserts you love – it just means swapping a few key ingredients!
2. Keep a couple of quick fixes up your sleeve
While I love (and try) to cook everything from scratch, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not always feasible, so it helps to keep some ready-made options on hand. When it comes to certain meaty favourites, or dishes that are tricky to replicate, a store-bought option is often the best way to go. And these days, there are vegan alternatives for just about everything.
The Christmas period can be a busy time in general, so I always keep vegan sausages and pies in the freezer, for those days when I don’t feel like cooking. A lot of people think being vegan is time-consuming, so it’s good to have quick and accessible options.
3. Know your ‘why’
If it’s your first vegan Christmas, or you’re the only one in your household eating a plant-based dinner, you might find you get a few questions or remarks. I know not everyone ‘gets’ veganism! However, being plant-based is really important to me and I try and respond with a simple but honest answer. If you find you get a few probing questions, just try and remember why you decided to go vegan in the first place. It’s not about convincing others to go vegan, it’s about explaining your reasons in order to help others understand.
4. Research, experiment and have fun!
One of the biggest misconceptions about going vegan is that you have to miss out on all your favourite foods, especially at Christmas, but that’s not the case. Just like with a traditional Christmas dinner, you might need to think about a few elements in advance! Have a look on YouTube, Instagram and Google for ideas – there are so many exciting vegan recipes online that will inspire you. Test out different brands to find vegan alternatives you like, then get creative in the kitchen. It’s an enjoyable process and one I hope you fall in love with.
Looking for vegan recipe inspiration? Check out these maple hasselback butternut squash for an impressive main and don’t miss this vegan spiced Yule log for an extra special dessert! Discover sprouts, sausage rolls and more with all our vegan recipes.